A Brisbane mother-of-three is pleading for her long-term partner, who has lived in Australia since he was an infant, to be allowed to stay after the Immigration Department started deportation proceedings against him.
Ricardo Bolvaran, 42 in December, came to Australia with his parents, sister and grandmother in 1974 as a one-year-old, when his family left Chile at the height of the brutal Pinochet regime.
His partner, Rachel Delucia, admitted Bolvaran was no angel but said Australia was the only country he had ever known.
Bolvaran’s rap sheet is long.
He was jailed in July on a string of offences, including drug possession, possession of a knife in public and receiving tainted property among other charges.
Bolvaran pleaded guilty to all charges, committed in 2012 and 2013.
He had also been sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in June 2006, which was central to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s decision to revoke his residency visa last month.
On August 31, the department wrote to Bolvaran, imprisoned at the Brisbane Correctional Centre at Wacol, to inform him his residency visa had been cancelled under the Migration Act.
“Based on the evidence before the department, the minister is satisfied you do not pass the character test,” the letter from DIBP says.
“…Under s501(7)(c) a person has a substantial criminal record if the person has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more.”
Ms Delucia said, for all intents and purposes, Bolvaran was an Australian, having been raised in the country with no memory of his homeland.
“He’ll be a foreigner in his own country because he doesn’t speak much of the language and he has no family over there whatsoever,” she said.
“They’ve all either passed away or don’t live there anymore.”
Ms Delucia said Bolvaran had worked hard to turn his life around and get over his ice addiction.
“He’s been really good in jail. He’s been working and he just wants to get back to a normal life,” she said.
“He knows being a drug user is a bad thing, but he’s rehabilitated and he’s back to normal and he wants to get back to a normal life.
“The worst thing is the kids. The young ones are taking it so hard. My eldest son is pretty good – he’s 19 and a qualified brickie now and ready to buy a house – and that’s down to Ricardo.
“But the two little ones are struggling. (The seven-year-old) understands what’s happening, he says to me ‘Mummy, I don’t want to go to Chile, I don’t speak the language, I’m scared’.”
Comment was sought from Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton on Monday.
Mr Dutton, who earlier this month blasted the media for not checking with his office prior to publishing stories , did not respond prior to publication.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for Mr Dutton said Bolvaran case was an “ongoing matter for the department”.
“A person can seek revocation of the cancellation decision within strict timeframes, and needs to provide sufficient reasons as to why their visa should be reinstated,” he said.
“During this process, they will remain either in criminal custody (if they have not yet completed their sentence) or immigration detention until a decision is made.”
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties acting president Julie Jansen said the case raised wider questions about the deportation of Australian-bred criminals.
“To my mind, it doesn’t seem manifestly fair that someone would be deported for having an addiction that led to crime, especially if they’ve got children,” she said.
Ms Jansen said there were human rights ramifications from sending people back to their homelands when they had been “raised as a product of Australian society” and may not have any family ties or support networks.
“That’s something that we, as a country, need to look at more closely,” she said.
“If someone’s been here since they were one year old, they are essentially Australian and they have merged into Australian society.”
Ms Jansen said those people could face extreme hardship when faced with a new life in what would be, to them, a foreign land.
“Do they still speak the language? Do they have close ties? Do they have family who can look after them? Will anybody even be able to meet them at the airport?” she said.
“There are cases where people have been sent back to their country of origin, where they were as a small child, and it hasn’t worked out for them.
“The federal minister needs to be mindful of those factors when ordering deportation.”
Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House principal solicitor Karen Dyhrberg said Bolvaran’s case was by no means unique.
Ms Dyhrberg said QPILCH had dealt with several similar cases.
“The majority of cases we’re seeing involve people from New Zealand, which might not be seen as such a hardship,” she said.
“But there are certainly a lot more cases involving people of varying degrees of criminal history, varying degrees of rehabilitation and varying degrees of family support back in the country they’re being sent to.”
Ms Dyhrberg said the process, in effect, was a further punishment for a crime “even if that’s not legally the reason it’s being done”.
“I think the challenge we see is it can be put in place even for relatively minor prison sentences – it just has to be one year – and it certainly puts some vulnerable people at risk of further significant adverse consequences,” she said.
Ms Delucia said her partner was due to be released from the Brisbane Correctional Centre on Wednesday, to be transferred to the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre at Pinkenba.
From there, Ms Delucia said she had been told Bolvaran could be transferred to an immigration detention centre in Western Australia ahead of his deportation to Chile.
“The government’s dealing with our lives as well, not only Ricardo’s,” she said.
“He knows he’s done wrong, I know he’s done wrong, but we’re in this together.
“I’ve been with him for 24 years, since I was 16, and I don’t know what else to do. We don’t have the funds to launch a proper legal challenge.”
Ms Jansen said many people in Australia would be unaware they could be deported for committing a crime.
“They may not be aware of these rules; they may have lived here all their life,” she said.
“They may live here until old age and not realise that it could be in their best interests to become an Australian citizen.”